If you’re like me and in one of the mid to later years of Gen X (1965-1979), you’ve probably had more than one instance where you were freezing cold, and then as soon as you put a sweatshirt or jacket on, you’re immediately far too hot. Of course, whenever this happens to me, I always think, “Is this it? Is it time? Am I in perimenopause?” But, because I’m Gen X and was “raised in a generation where menopause was a taboo subject”1 a generation that just tends to grin and bear it and push through, it’s not something I necessarily want to chat about with my coworkers, or really even my doctor quite yet.
While I’m still in the age group of what’s considered early menopause—before the age of 40 – 45—that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen, and I could potentially be perimenopausal. I know I’m not alone. Just recently, at a high school football game, one of the Deans around my age put on a sweatshirt, then took it off literally a moment later because her body temperature changed so quickly. For those of us in that range of potential perimenopause, a 2021 survey shows that in 2030, when I will hit 51, the average age for menopause, there will be 1.2 billion menopausal and postmenopausal women worldwide.2
Another survey of women in the United States this past July estimated that 6,000 women reach menopause3 each day, with the yearly total somewhere around two million. According to that same survey by ElektraHealth, over 50 million women in the workforce navigate various stages of menopause every day. So maybe this Gen Xer might not have to go it alone after all.
It’s important to note that in 2020, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Global Public Health4 cautioned that the current statistics were “underestimates, because few women seek help from a healthcare professional for menopausal problems, or they mention only some of their symptoms, but not others, to their healthcare providers, usually due to embarrassment.” The lack of women seeking help from healthcare providers could stem from two additional areas: that many women feel as though their symptoms go ignored in some healthcare settings, or because, in true Gen X trailblazer and glass-ceiling-buster fashion, we go it alone with our “stoic” natures. In the same vein, women often don’t want to mention symptoms in the workplace for “fear of discrimination or being seen as weak or making excuses.5”
So, for those of you out there like me wondering, “Is this normal?” when you have those mini hot flashes, or struggle to sleep, or have those wild mood swings like we did in our early teens6, the answer is yes. It is normal. Don’t hesitate to look around you for help because we’re going to have to break one more glass ceiling before we go: the push for recognition of the reality of menopause in the workplace7.